What should you do if you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver? This is an extremely common question, particularly in Austin, Texas, because nearly 20% of all drivers in Texas do not have valid car insurance coverage at the time of a wreck. Here we discuss what you can do when you’ve been hit by an uninsured motorist.
Look at your own insurance policy
The first thing you should do when you have been hit by someone who does not have insurance coverage is to check your own policy to see if you have what is called uninsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage pays for damages caused by an uninsured motorist. In short, this type of coverage provides the insurance that the negligent, uninsured driver should have had. But, if you are at fault in the wreck, your insurance carrier will not likely provide coverage. If you are only partially at fault, your insurance carrier should pay a portion of your damages, to the extent you were not at fault. If you have this coverage, the Texas minimum policy limits are $30,000.
Making a claim for uninsured motorist benefits can be difficult and complicated depending on the case. Even though the coverage is provided by your own insurance company, they have no interest in paying the claim, or paying your full damages, if they don’t have to. And, any statements that you make to them can, and will, be used against you. So, call us to help you through the process if you have this coverage.
You should also check to see if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which normally provides $2,500 that can be used to pay medical expenses and lost wages.
For claims involving property damage only caused by an uninsured motorist, you can still make an uninsured motorist property damage (UMPD) claim if you have uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage normally comes with a limit of $25,000. If your insurance carrier argues you were at fault, then you can make a claim under your collision coverage if you have it, but you will have to pay a deductible.
Can you make the uninsured insured driver pay?
In short, the answer to this is yes. However, it can be a difficult and long process that is not likely to result in any financial recovery. Most drivers who can’t afford to buy insurance also can’t afford to pay a judgment against them for the damages they caused. Under current Texas law, collecting a judgment against an individual is very complicated. Additionally, an individual who has a judgment taken against them can often declare bankruptcy and discharge the judgment.
If the driver has been convicted of no insurance coverage, you should contact the prosecutor on the case to see if they will pursue restitution from the driver on your behalf as part of the uninsured driver’s penalty. Because the uninsured driver probably wants to get their license reinstated, they may have an incentive to cooperate.
Make a complaint to the Texas Department of Public Safety
The Texas Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) can help you recover for your damages arising from the collision. If the negligent, uninsured party is a resident of Texas, their driver’s license and vehicle registration can be suspended. If the negligent, uninsured party is a nonresident, then their driving privileges in Texas could be suspended.
Whether you can make a Claim with DPS
In general, there are five basic requirements to make a claim:
- The collision must be less than one year and ten months before the DPS will proceed against the uninsured.
- The collision must have occurred on a public highway – i.e., not private property.
- There must be an accident report regarding the collision showing that the negligent driver did not have insurance. If the officer’s report erroneously stated the negligent driver had insurance, a denial of coverage letter from the driver’s insurance company is sufficient.
- The officer’s report or other evidence must clearly indicate that you were not at fault for the collision.
- The damages incurred and/or injuries sustained in the collision must total at least $1,000.00.
What to Submit to DPS
The following items should be sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety:
- Form SR – 106
- Check for $7.00
- Estimates and invoices for damages, injuries, and lost wages
- Copy of the officer’s report
Damage estimates for the property should come from a mechanic or repair shop. These estimates should include all parts and labor, car rental expenses, and storage expenses, to the extent they are applicable. If the property damage has already been paid for, then submit the invoice. If the vehicle has been totaled, you should send a Total Loss Statement to the DPS. You should also send copies of itemized medical bills for injuries sustained in the collision, regardless of whether they have been paid or not. Finally, if you have lost wages as a result of the collision, you should submit a statement from your employer listing the total hours and wages lost.
Notice of Suspension Letter
After receiving the required information, the DPS will send a letter to the uninsured driver, listing the total amount of damages. Upon receiving this notice, the uninsured driver has twenty days to reply. The uninsured driver has the following options upon receiving the notice of suspension:
- Contact you and set up an acceptable plan of payment (in most instances this is an installment agreement) and send evidence of the agreement to the DPS;
- Send evidence of a release from liability from you for claims arising out of the accident; or
- Send evidence of a final adjudication of no liability for claims arising out of the accident.
If you and the uninsured driver reach an agreement, you should send a copy to the DPS using DPS form SR-19. You and the uninsured driver must sign the agreement in the presence of either a notary public or two witnesses.
Probability of Judgment Against the Uninsured Party
If the uninsured party fails to comply with any of the options set forth in the preceding section, the DPS shall determine whether there is a probability of a judgment being rendered against the uninsured party.
If the Department finds that there is a reasonable probability of a judgment being rendered against the uninsured party, the Department shall determine the amount of security required to be deposited.
The DPS will send the uninsured driver notice of its determination that a probability of judgment will be rendered against them. The uninsured party must either establish that the law requiring insurance does not apply or establish that there is not a reasonable probability of judgment being rendered against him. The uninsured party is entitled to a hearing if it is requested in writing within twenty days from the receipt of the Department’s determination.
A hearing requested by the uninsured driver will be held by a municipal court judge or a justice of the peace. If the uninsured driver loses, they can appeal to the county court. The DPS may not suspend the driver’s license and vehicle registration or driving privileges of the uninsured party during the pendency of a hearing or an appeal.
If the uninsured party fails to comply with these requirements, the Department may suspend the driver’s license and vehicle registration if the party is a Texas resident. If the uninsured party is a nonresident, the Department may suspend their driving privileges in Texas.
You may collect the security deposit by either instituting an action for damages incurred as a result of the collision or by negotiating an installment agreement with the uninsured driver. If you wish to collect by judgment, the action for damages must be brought before the second anniversary of the date of the collision. The security deposit of the uninsured driver will be returned to them if they can show that you never brought an action for damages within the two years and that no judgment rendered against the uninsured driver remains unpaid.
Find an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer to Represent You
No one wants to get into a car accident, but if you do, you expect that the other driver has car insurance. However, statistics say there’s a good chance they may be uninsured. This is why having uninsured motorist coverage is highly recommended. In addition to getting the right level of insurance coverage, it’s also recommended that you seek out the experience of a trained car accident attorney if you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver. A lawyer can help you understand your options and fight to get you the financial compensation you deserve.
The attorneys at DC Law have decades of experience helping car accident victims get justice. If you’ve been injured by an uninsured driver, reach out to our team for a free case evaluation.